I was happy when Kals graciously agreed to do a guest post on my blog. I love her posts, and her ones about Jane Austen reflect the passion she has for the author’s books. She is one of the biggest fans of Austen I have ever seen, and her posts always make me want to pick up classics by Austen that I somehow never picked up, a fact I’m not very proud of. Anyways, it only seemed right that Kals write about Austen, and she happily took it up.
So, here goes her post on The Austen-tatious Indian. I hope you like it as much as I did, and that it inspires you to pick up an Austen (as it did me, if you haven’t already).
Thank you so much for this, Kals! 🙂
The Austen-tatious Indian
I must have been 11 when I chanced upon an abridged version of a novel that would go on to be one of my most favourite books. It had a horribly illustrated pink and orange cover which put me off the book for a long time.
In 2005, after having read some excellent reviews, I decided to watch Pride and Prejudice. It was love at second sight. Proof again of what Austen says in the book: first impressions might be terribly wrong. I adored the movie. Matthew Macfadyen was dreamy, brooding and passionate. And yes, I had never heard of a Mr. Colin Firth. I decided reading the book would be a good idea. And the rest is history.
As is the case with every addiction, I needed people to talk about it. I wanted to discuss one of the greatest writers of all time and her wonderful books. I found very few such Jane Austen fans here in India. But why worry when you can go online? The biggest blessing to every Janeite, especially to one like me, has been the internet; a wonderful means to meet people, have amazing conversations. Austen would have approved.
But what’s the big deal about Austen? Isn’t she just a chick-lit writer? Isn’t she overrated? She wrote about marriages and women obsessed with marriages, that’s all. Not quite. Austen wrote realistic, timeless, universal classics. Which is why I, munching my samosa as I type in India, adore it as much as anyone in the U.S or U.K. Any careful reader will be sure to find that Austen’s books were hardly just about romance. They were more of a satire on society, with a biting, witty look at class, the expectations piled on women by their families etc. Sounds similar to what happens in India, right?
That’s why it’s hard for me to imagine why Austen isn’t talked about more in India. Because to a society where arranged marriages are still common, quite similar to the ‘advantageous marriage’ situations depicted in Austen’s books, this should be so very relevant. Salman Rushdie, in his list of acknowledgements in Midnight’s Children, makes an excellent point:
Austen for her portraits of brilliant women caged by the social convention of their time, women whose Indian counterparts I knew well;
India and Austen have had successful trysts. One such instance is the hilarious desi take on Pride and Prejudice with Aishwarya Rai in Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice, which for its silly scenes and some mediocre performances, is a glorious tribute to Austen, clearly showcasing the similarities between the society of Austen’s England and our India. Kandukondain Kandukondain, one of my favourite Tamil films, is an Indian adaptation of Sense and Sensibility which is so emotionally true to Austen’s original that I would recommend it to everyone, especially Austen fans across the world. Also coming soon is Sonam Kapoor’s Aisha, an Indian take on Austen’s Emma.
So it’s obvious that Austen can mean a lot to the Indian reader. To me, Austen’s books have been something to seek solace in, no matter what. They are books for all moods. When I’m sad, a few witty sentences of Pride and Prejudice or a heart-warming letter in Persuasion, can put a smile to my face. When I’m lonely, it’s pretty nice to have Mr. Darcy and Mr. Tilney for company. Every time Auntie X harps about the need for ‘you girls’ to get married to an NRI, I think of Mrs. Bennet looking to push her daughters to the richest man possible. Every time Mr. Y speaks about his looks, I’m reminded of the vain Sir Elliot in Persuasion.
Austen painted characters that we’ve all seen and known. She wrote tales of strong women at a time when the job of a woman was only to get married and take care of the house. I adore her for the sarcastic, witty, incisive social commentary and most of all, the happy endings in her stories. Isn’t that what we all like? I hope several of my fellow Indians who haven’t read Austen will give her books a try too. You might also get addicted and like me, be proud of it 🙂